In the past year, companies and businesses of all kinds have rushed to port their services online. And if 2020 proved anything, it’s that music can make or break many of these digital experiences.
This has long been clear to Feed Media Group, the company behind established fitness music powerhouse Feed.fm and Adaptr, their music licensing platform for startups. Now the go-to service for licensed major label music, custom curation, and advanced analytics, Feed has helped dozens of companies incorporate the perfect music into their product, from popular sports teams (Golden State Warriors) and consumer brands (ASICS, American Eagle Outfitters) to consumer fitness apps (Alo Moves, ClassPass) and cutting-edge in-home devices (Tonal, Mirror).
“The gym, stadium, or studio is no longer the hub; it’s just one piece of a bigger picture. It’s similar to what we’ve seen in entertainment with the rise of streaming video or what we’ve seen in retail with the explosion of ecommerce,” explains Feed COO Lauren Pufpaf. “It’s about getting away from the idea of the mall or the gym or movie theater as a central point of engagement. Brands need to be everywhere; that’s the expectation.”
Wherever they seek out fitness, sports, and lifestyle brands, consumers expect music to be there, too. Yet licensing music, especially for interactive uses when the listener has more control over what’s playing, has been a significant stumbling block for digital innovators for decades. Before Feed came on the scene, brands and companies often struggled with a complicated and expensive music licensing framework. Many decided to forego music altogether, or proceeded without any safeguards against major legal headaches.
Feed’s founders resolved to change all that after they got their first taste of in-app music success. The trio—Pufpaf, CEO Jeff Yasuda, and CTO Eric Lambrecht—was still testing the waters when a compelling opportunity came their way: “A friend at Anheuser Busch was trying to develop an app for a festival the company was sponsoring,” says Pufpaf. “They just couldn’t figure out how to get music incorporated quickly.” The Feed team could and, despite compressed timelines, helped make the app a huge success among festival goers.
Pufpaf and her co-founders were hooked. “It was so obvious there was a real need in the market. There was simply no easy way for a business to share music legally with their customers via their apps or websites,” Pufpaf recounts. “We felt compelled to do this. It’s been a constant learning process but it’s extremely gratifying that the business is growing.”
Feed now streams over 50 million songs and curates thousands of soundtracks each month. It serves both household names and small, niche businesses. To meet their wide range of needs, Feed has built a formidable toolset—APIs, SDKs—to let clients develop their own music-based experiences. Its custom services combine curation licensing, and analytics. The last part may seem nerdy, but it’s been key to Feed’s success: They can prove that music dramatically improves engagement.
“Music adds value. It’s not merely another cost,” explains Pufpaf. “We knew that but we had to prove it. From the beginning we were seeking to measure the metrics that really matter. In a subscription-based business, for example, engagement leads to retention, which impacts your bottom line. We’ve continued over the years to fastidiously measure engagement to prove music’s ROI.”
This engagement is more likely to happen when the music is the right music, one reason Feed’s clients turn to the company for curatorial support. It’s a conversation that goes back and forth until the brand’s sound is captured. “It’s a really iterative process. Music is extremely subjective. We help our clients let go of their personal taste and think about the customer. Then we address the brand layer, what qualities the brand has,” Pufpaf notes. “We start with a 10-15 song playlist sample to reflect that sound and build from there.”
Feed’s deep expertise in music and commitment to serving businesses big and small inspired its latest project, Adaptr.com. Adaptr a new way for fledgling apps and platforms to legally license hit music early in their journey. Adaptr solves a significant challenge for tech teams who want music in their products but aren’t ready for direct licensing deals. “Many projects can use non-interactive music and leverage blanket licenses, but when the project requires more interactivity, that’s where Adaptr comes in,” says Pufpaf. “Startups need something bigger than the existing sandboxes. They need turnkey access to great music that wouldn’t snag them in licensing problems right when they need market traction most.”
Getting rightsholders on board demanded significant finesse. “Adaptr offers a click-through license, which is a big change for rightsholders. We knew we had to work hand in hand with them to establish the right balance between ease of use and rightsholder protections,” explains Pufpaf. “Everyone needed to be on the same page and excited about innovation for this to work. Together, we were able to define mutually beneficial qualifications for usage, robust and transparent reporting, and market intelligence across the platform,” something Adaptr can provide in real time thanks to the robust analytics tools Feed has developed over the years.
“It’s a significant model change,” muses Pufpaf. “Rightholders moving from a very high-touch consideration cycle for a potential deal to click-through licensing requires a big adjustment in thinking, but it will help foster innovation,” one of many instituted by Feed in a space in desperate need of licensing heavy lifters.